It’s no secret that group assignments can teach us about teamwork, enhance our analytical abilities and help us develop interpersonal skills. And frankly, group assignments have even saved our grades more than once.
In light of these benefits, why do we continue to detest group work so much?
Could it be the subject matter that we barely understand, having to work against our penchant for procrastination or negotiating with uncooperative group members?
Here are 7 reasons why college students loathe group assignments.
#1. No-shows at group meetings
One of the biggest pet peeves about working on group assignments is having group mates who are no-shows at meetings.
While this may make your blood boil, their lack of initiative to contribute to the team may also irritate other team members who may be less forgiving about the person’s absence as it can slow down the team’s progress.
While it may take a Herculean-like effort to keep your temper in check, if faced with such a scenario, it is best for you (or a calm team member) to discuss the matter rationally and tactfully with the person of interest in private about their absence and how it affects the team, or to take it up with your lecturer if that fails.
#2. Having to (reluctantly) take the lead
For some students, group assignments are the perfect way to shy away from responsibilities and let others carry the workload. So when the topic of who has to become the team leader crops up, it’s no surprise to find everyone’s heads turning away.
So, if everyone else in your group refuses to take up the challenge to be a leader and you can afford to, we say, go for it! Becoming a team leader gives you an opportunity to learn how to manage a team, such as dividing tasks fairly between members and managing progress to ensure tasks are completed.
If you’re working with the same group members for more than one class, consider taking turns to be the leader of each subject. It’s a fair way of sharing the burden and to avoid being overloaded with commitments.
#3. Dealing with procrastinators
We get it — everyone works at a different pace.
Some students need to experience that last-minute panic that comes the night before an assignment is due before starting work to get their creative juices flowing. Others need several days of consistent writing to produce their best work.
Unfortunately, when it comes to group assignments, procrastinators can throw everyone’s work off track by failing to submit their part by the agreed deadline.
To prevent this from happening, set internal deadlines for yourself and your group members at least one week before the assignment is due and frequently check each other for progress updates. This gives you and your teammates time to rectify each other’s mistakes before handing your assignment in.
#4. Having that one person who’s always uncontactable
They were there during your team’s first meeting, enthusiastically agreed on the assigned task, but are never reachable when you need to check with them for updates or to ask if they are free to attend a group meeting.
Whether via WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, email or even phone calls, the uncontactable group member simply disappears from the team’s radar and doesn’t respond to any form of communication.
While this member is probably the easiest to deal with (after all, what’s there to deal with when they’re never around?), there’s not much you can do but to inform your lecturer and to let them take the necessary action after you and your team have exercised all means to contact your MIA (missing in action) teammate.
#5. Picking up the slack
You might have thought you were a professional procrastinator, but you’ll soon find that some of your group mates are much worse. It could be only a few days (or hours!) left before your assignment is due and none of your group mates has kept their end of the bargain.
Being stuck with a party of freeloaders is not a new scenario for hardworking students. Not only do you find yourself struggling with your own workload, but you’ll find that you’ll have to pick up everyone else’s too.
So if you’re given a group assignment, prepare a rough draft of the answer and divide the tasks evenly amongst your members. If you find that they’re not stepping up to the plate, let them know how they can improve. If all else fails, speak with your lecturer about getting a new member or if you can complete the assignment on your own.
#6. Dealing with a quiet teammate
You’ve probably encountered that shy teammate who doesn’t really say anything during your team meetings.
Chances are, they’re responsible enough to attend all the meetings and may even complete the tasks assigned to them, but the shy teammate has never contributed ideas to help the team, or refuses to speak out during your group presentation, which can get annoying if you want everyone on the team to contribute effectively towards the team’s grades.
While it’s not easy to deal with such a shy and quiet person, consider speaking to them in private (or even via text if they’re more comfortable expressing their thoughts that way) and ask how they’re doing, and to offer suggestions on how they can share their ideas (e.g. via email, text, etc.) if they are too afraid to speak out during team meetings.
This way, they can still be effective team players despite being shy and quiet.
#7. Going through chaos at the campus printing shop
It’s D-Day — your group assignment is due, and you’ve been tasked with printing the assignment.
You head to the printers only to find hordes of students lining up — with only a few hours to spare until the deadline, no less. If you thought the assignment was hard, you’ll discover that submitting it to your lecturer on time is going to be a feat in itself.
Don’t let this be the death of you. If you have to submit a hard copy of your assignment, aim to print it a day before the assignment is due. That way, you’ll have time to correct any mistakes (God forbid) and avoid competing with the rest of your college mates for that one desktop that’s rumoured to have the strongest wifi connection.
Alternatively, you may want to consider printing your assignment further away from campus as it’s likely to cost a fraction of the price you’d pay on campus, and with half the waiting time.
That being said, the trick to working well in a team is having good communication skills and a lot of patience. Group work will not only be part of your college experience but an integral part of your working life as well. The trying times you’ll face in college are sure to prepare you for the harsh realities of life outside the comfort of your campus walls.